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Culture Lust by Angela Carone

Being Tom Waits

This is not only one of my favorite pictures of Tom Waits , it's one of my favorite images of a celeb ever.   It was taken by photographer Anton Corbijn , who also directed Control , last year's great movie about the band Joy Division .  I look at a framed poster from Control every day as it hangs in my office, right above my desk, and was generously given to me by KPBS film critic Beth Accomando .  In the image above, I think Corbijn captures Waits perfectly.  It looks like something Tim Burton or Edward Gorey would dream up.

Since the release of Being John Malkovich many years ago, I've occasionally wondered whose head I'd want to live in for twenty-four hours. If, for example, I found a portal in my KPBS office (I really should look under my desk), who'd make me venture down the rabbit hole to spend time in his or her head?  By the way, I REALLY wish I had said portal in my KPBS office.  Anyway, Edward Gorey would definitely be on the list.  Evelyn Glennie would be another - to live in a deaf musician's head would be amazing.  Prince is on the list, so is Edward Albee , Michel Gondry , Dave Chappell, and this guy popped up on my list yesterday (before he got busted, of course, and just to live the thrill of transgression for 24 hours).  But always, always close to the top of my list is Tom Waits.  This fantastic interview with Waits, where he interviews himself, just solidifies that ranking.  Reading the interview feels like being in his head for a moment - maybe not a full-on portal, but close. 

To whet your appetite, here's what Waits wrote introducing his interview with himself:


I must admit, before meeting Tom, I had heard so many rumors and so much gossip that I was afraid. Frankly, his gambling debts, his animal magnetism, coupled with his disregard for the feelings of others… His elaborate gun collection, his mad shopping sprees, the face lifts, the ski trips, the drug busts and the hundreds of rooms in his home. The tax shelters, the public urination…I was nervous to meet the real man himself. Baggage and all. But I found him to be gentle, intelligent, open, bright, helpful, humorous, brave, audacious, loquacious, clean, and reverent. A Boy Scout, really (and a giant of a man). Join me now for a rare glimpse into the heart of Tom Waits. Remove your shoes and no smoking, please.

Edward from San Diego
May 30, 2008 at 09:48 PM
I have a copy of this photo in my office at home, I love it so much. Tom is always at the top of my list for those "name 3 people, real or ficitional, that you'd like to invite over for a dinner party." Problem is, would Tom be real or fictional? Hard to know where the real Tom begins and the entertainer ends. Can't miss his "press conference" announcing his upcoming tour: I'll be there in Phoenix for both nights to see him in concert. I've waited years for this...

May 30, 2008 at 10:13 PM
Waits is endlessly fascinating - proof is this clip from John Lurie's tragically short lived TV show - Fishing With John Lurie - featuring Tom Waits fishing in Jamaica, grumpy, hilarious and seasick....

Angela from KPBS
May 30, 2008 at 11:05 PM
Edward, lucky you! going to both Phoenix shows. You have to come back and give us a report... I'm wondering if I should road trip it. I could drive all night, just like "Ol' 55."


Edwin Decker from ob
June 09, 2008 at 08:41 PM
Good Lord Angela, I've never seen this photo before. It's every bit as good as you say it is. I'm thinking of having that picture framed and giving it to my mother in-law for her birthday - she's a big Wait's fan, as am I. GIVE ME RAIN DOGS OR GIVE ME DEATH